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Posts Tagged ‘women’

When the INSEAD Dog and Pony show came to my town last winter, a very perky cheerleader-type spent about an hour telling a room full of men how hard INSEAD is working to recruit women.  The current class has somewhere just south of 30% women in the class, a several point improvement over the previous year.  The message wasn’t exactly on point for the audience (though having more ladies in the class is not bad for anyone – no one wants sausage only parties at the chateaux), and the cheerleader kept talking about why SHE (who was working for INSEAD rather than attending it or hoping to attend it) loved INSEAD and thought it was the best place for HER.  But, I did some mental math and thought that as a woman, I probably had a better chance of getting into INSEAD than any man who applies.  That’s fine.  I’ll take the leg-up, thankyouverymuch.  

Sometime last spring I also had an informational phone interview with IESE prior to submitting my application.  What I didn’t realize was that I was going to be walking someone through my resume at 7:30 AM.  When it was finally my turn to ask questions, I wanted to know whether the school was doing anything to increase the number of women in the class – currently at 27%.  Note here that it’s not so much that I’m worried about the disparity.  I’ve been in the 27% most of my student and professional life.  I was mostly just making conversation and trying to feel out the IESE attitude given how adamant INSEAD was about recruiting women.  

The director of admissions started by correcting me: “Well, it’s actually 30%” – yes, how could I have made that 3% error?  That’s like a difference of 10 women in a class 300.  “It’s a reality of the workforce,” she continued. “And, the US schools have like 45% women.”  A couple of things bothered me about her response.  First, that she didn’t answer my question.  If she had said, “IESE thinks that 30% women in the class is acceptable as it reflects the status quo,” I would have found that to be a legitimate, if lame, answer.  Second, that she corrected me by using faulty logic.  Following this discussion, I placed my IESE materials in the trash… err… recycling bin.  Really, I had already been looking for an excuse not to apply to more than 1 school.  

For one of the scholarship applications I had to write an essay about why there aren’t more women in upper management, what should be done about the situation, and how my “own ambitions will be fulfilled in respect to my potential.”  The why is relatively straight-forward.  Women tend to be less aggressive and less assertive than men.  Women take maternity leave in the critical years that men use to promote their careers.  Women leave the workforce to raise their children, and reenter years later, having lost valuable time and skills.  Women are less likely to ask for promotions and raises.  Women tend to be more loyal to their employer, and don’t tend to move up by switching jobs. Women who negotiate are viewed negatively by their male AND, sadly, by their female counterparts.  (If this were a term paper, I’d actually provide citations.  Since it is not, I ask you to take everything I say as self-evident truth).

The “what to do about it” question gives me pause.  Do women really, truly benefit from becoming upper management?  I can see clearly how enterprises can gain by having women in leadership roles.   Countless research studies have shown that women are better consensus builders, better at resolving tension, better able to relate to and sympathize with their coworkers.  But does the financial gain of upper management and the ego-gratifying role of executive decider make up for the physical and emotional stress associated with those positions?  For some, the answer may be yes.  I have a suspicion that my own Type A personality might be well-suited for and well-rewarded by a more cut-throat environment of an i-bank than by the touchy-feely one of my old job.  (I probably won’t go there, but it’s good to know yourself.) But, maybe it’s okay if only 30% of a business school class or 30% of suits in a board room are women.   

What’s not okay is that women’s salaries are still behind men’s.  What’s not okay is that McCain selects Sarah Palin as running mate based on gender alone and not based on her intellect or her accomplishments.  What’s not okay is that I still haven’t heard back about the scholarship.

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